(The Daily Advertiser) – State Treasurer John M. Schroder on Friday announced that the Treasury has deposited $78.5 million in new unclaimed property collections.

Each year businesses turn over millions of dollars in unclaimed cash, stocks, bonds, securities and insurance proceeds to the State Treasurer’s Office.

The money is called unclaimed property, and it becomes lost through the normal course of business through no fault of the owners. 

You can search the Treasury’s website to see if you have lost money that can be reclaimed.

“We’ve uploaded 100,000 names of people who are owed unclaimed property to our database since our last newspaper publication,” he said. “This is not public money; it belongs to the rightful owners. We are going to do everything we can to return it.”

The Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Division uploads roughly 6,000 reports each year with new collections from companies that owe money to Louisiana citizens.

The division collects an average of $87 million a year in unclaimed property and returns an average of $31.7 million to its rightful owners.

After paying program expenses, the Treasury transfers approximately $50 million to the state to pay for operations and Interstate 49 debt service.

Since 2001, the Treasury has transferred $537 million in unclaimed property to the state’s General Fund.

“Louisiana state government shouldn’t depend on unclaimed property to balance the budget,” Schroder said. “I want to start gradually weaning the state off of using this money.

“This is important because the better we get at returning unclaimed property, the less state government will have for operations.”

Louisiana ranks 32nd in the nation for unclaimed property returns.

Schroder wants to increase the percentage of unclaimed property collected and returned to citizens from 36 percent to 50 percent over the next three years.

“One way we can do this is to ramp up technology and outreach efforts to drive more people to the unclaimed property website to make online claims,” Schroder said.

Recent website improvements include a streamlined reporting process that enables data to be uploaded and processed quickly.

The Treasury also improved online claims so that citizens can receive their money faster.

Schroder also is working on a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Revenue to cross-reference addresses in state tax returns with those listed in Unclaimed Property claims (House Bill 800).

This will enable the Treasury to proactively locate individuals who are owed unclaimed property.